In 2015, a total of 57.8 million international tourists visited Africa. While that may seem like a lot, the figure represents only 5% of the world’s tourists.
For Ghali Jorio (’21), these numbers were more than statistics. They were his motivation for starting a company.
Jorio is the founder of MyAfriTrip: an online platform that offers tour packages designed to increase tourism to African countries. Driven by a mission of economic development in Africa, Ghali and his partner have already helped facilitate 30 trips, ranging from two to ten people.
While Jorio is focusing on building his knowledge and entrepreneurial resources as a student at Cornell, he commits himself fully to MyAfriTrip on school breaks when he is in Africa with his co-founder. For more on Ghali’s experiences, see our interview below:
Describe MyAfriTrip to me in your own words.
MyAfriTrip is a rising pan-African tour operator that works with local travel agencies to produce high quality packages at affordable prices. We aim to develop African tourism from the bottom to the top. We started working with local travel agents that don’t have access to big markets, and we’d promote their packages to African countries and other countries around the world. Our vision is to build a strong platform where people can book flights, hotels, and tours to African countries. From a marketing side, we are working toward making people aware of the tourism opportunities on the continent.
Why did you start MyAfriTrip?
I’m from Morocco, and I’d traveled to 19 countries by 19-years-old. During my last two years of high school, I’d been accepted to join a Pan-African school called the African Leadership Academy. It’s a pre-university program that aims to develop the next generation of African leaders, where they bring people from 45 African countries and give a strong leadership and entrepreneurship curriculum for two years. During my stay at ALA, I developed a huge passion for Africa, first, for the development of the continent. I started a humanities research project on the African tourism industry that led to the launch of myafritrip.com
How did you identify the problem?
When I was living with students from 45 African countries at the African Leadership Academy, I wondered why I had never even thought of touring an African country as an African. I was always thinking go to France, go to Spain, go to the U.S.; I never thought of African countries. I started looking at numbers, and 5% of tourists around the world visit African countries. There are 54 African countries, and they receive fewer tourists than France, Spain, or the United States each receive every year. When I started contacting travel agents, there were really few agents selling trips to African countries. They were all focused outside of Africa. Fewer than 2% of the trips that travel agents sell around the world are to African countries. We want to change that!
What stage is the company at in its development?
Over my 2 years at African Leadership Academy, I have worked more on understanding the problem, developing our concept and understanding the market really well. On April 2017, we have launched myafritrip.com and achieved our first period of operation during the summer 2017. We organized more than 30 trips in several African countries and currently we are working more on developing our business plan and online platform.
Your mission statement emphasizes helping African countries. Rival companies may have a mission statement more focused on value for the tourist. Why the difference?
Editorial Note: MyAfriTrip’s mission is to “Increase the number of tourists within the continent.”
While our priority is to offer high quality packages at affordable prices for our clients, we are highly concerned about our impact on the development of the African tourism industry. We all know how tourism can benefit local markets and contribute to the GDP of countries around the world. Tourism has so much potential to help African countries grow faster. Once the tourism industry starts moving forward, many other industries will follow. That being said, MyAfriTrip measures its success directly by its impact on local African tourism!
Do you think that African infrastructure can support the level of tourism that you envision?
Morocco, the most visited country in Africa, only receives 10 million tourists per year, while it has the infrastructure to receive many more. Countries like Kenya, Tanzania, and Senegal receive less than 1 million tourists; their infrastructure has the potential to welcome many more. It is not about the infrastructure but the lack of access to the tourism opportunities in Africa. This is what we aim to change in the next 5 years.
What do you say if people ask you about safety?
As there are places in Europe where you can’t be safe, there are places in Africa where you can’t be safe. However, there are places where you can be safe. We care about our clients’ safety, and we partner with companies that care about the clients’ safety and experience. By working with local travel agents, we are sure to ensure the safety of our clients while offering them the best experience.
Do you worry about bigger competitors?
We are aware of the big competitors in the global tourism market. Our focus is on the African continent while we aim to add value that can help us compete with other travel agents.
One big difference between our project and others is our ethics. We aim to impact Africa’s tourism industry; we hope to have a direct impact in the development of African countries.
How do you plan to convince people of that?
This is a really great question. Currently, we are thinking of showcasing directly how our work is impacting local travel agents and making them grow. We aim to deliver high quality product at an affordable price, while achieving some change within this industry.
What has it been like being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur from a really young age has been a really huge challenge. Thinking if I am on the right way and if my ideas can actually attract customers and achieve some impact made me worry about failure so much.
One day, I started watching these videos on failure, but one entrepreneur said: “Don’t think what happens if you fail, think about what happens if you succeed.” When an entrepreneur shifts his thinking from being worried about failure to start getting excited for success, he can start moving forward faster!
As an international college student in the United States, I can’t work on my entrepreneurial project due to immigration laws unless I make it a class project. This is a really huge challenge to me as, for now, I can’t achieve any progress on my project. I hope to join an entrepreneurial class next semester at Cornell and work on it during my winter break in Morocco; however, my team back home is working toward the development of the project.
What does success look like for you?
Becoming the number one African tour operator in the world!
When people think of touring Africa, they think of MyAfriTrip. MyAfriTrip will have a direct impact on the development of African countries and educate people around the world of the tourism opportunities available on the continent.
We hope to break predictions and have more people visit African countries.
For more on MyAfriTrip, visit their website.